My job as autism assistant is messy and unpredictable. There is no telling what kind of day lies ahead of me, whether I will be pleasantly surprised by the kids’ mellow behavior or if I’ll be immediately overwhelmed by numerous tantrums. I guess that’s one of the reasons it is difficult; because no matter how positive I am at the start of my day, I have no control over the level of defiance that I will face, and this lack of control is daunting. It is therefore necessary to practice resilience by being flexible and slow to react to frustrating situations. As the Fellows director, Ben, would say, “There’s a metaphor in that.”
Why do I want control? Must be one of those traits passed down to me from those first fruit-eaters; I want control because I want to be like God. But God doesn’t treat us like puppets on a string, controlling our every action to suit His fancy. No, He gives us free will and we can choose to disobey Him or please Him. There is a set of rules that He gives us to follow for our own well-being. We can never perfectly follow them, but as we practice them, we get better and we come to understand why He set them in place. In a similar way, the kids I work with are given tasks in order to learn how to function in society. They learn simple things, like initiating greetings with classmates. Sometimes they refuse to practice and I have to be patient with them. Eventually they cooperate, with the promise of receiving candy after they work. They don’t understand that the big-picture reward for their work is much more valuable than candy: the ability to have basic interactions with people.
In so many instances at work, I am challenged to relinquish my desire for control, to let go of any preconceived expectations in order to give my full attention and energy to what the kids actually need. This way I am able to respond moment-to-moment in whatever way the situation calls for. Sometimes it is necessary to ignore an adorable child who is trying to play with me when he should be working. Sometimes the child has made a mess, but in so doing, he has performed a skill successfully. Instead of chiding him for the mess, I give him praise for his outstanding efforts at, say, holding a fork correctly. Menial skill though it may seem, my encouragement could be the catalyst for a future of civilized eating methods. That is my hope, anyway.
I feel a surge of pride in these small moments of victory wherein the child is close to mastering a skill. I also get overcome with frustration when I can’t even get a child to stay in his seat. Maybe God has moments like these with us, of pride and frustration, when we are inside and outside the bounds of the way Christ taught us to live. Little do we understand how sweet the reward will be when we learn to stay within designated realms—sweeter than candy, no doubt. I have a feeling that the pay-off is relational in nature, just as it is for the kids I work with. Whereas they work to iron out social deficits, we work to iron out misconceptions about the Lord. As we learn about Him and practice communicating with Him for who He actually is, we become healthier and experience spiritual wellness. Therefore it is entirely worth it to strive to imitate Christ, because even if it gets messy in the process, the Lord will use it to bring us closer to Him.
SLF Class of 17-18
“Wait for the Lord; be strong and let your heart take courage; wait for The Lord!” Proverbs 27: 14
This was the theme verse on our first orientation backpacking trip 5 months ago when the 7 Salt Lake Fellows had just moved to Utah to spend the year growing and serving. Throughout this season, The Lord has been slowly peeling back layers into the depths of this particular Proverb, as He continually reveals to me the ways in which He is using this truth in my life today. He has been challenging me to LIVE through a season of waiting, while clinging tight to the promises to come. To watch as He works faithfully on me, with great anticipation of His restorative power. One of the most difficult, yet hopeful seasons of my entire life.
Refinement is sometimes a slow process, but its a perfect process. Perfect in orchestration, perfect in plan, perfect in timing. But this truth is often hard to cling to and remember when the plans unfolding in front of us aren’t how we would write them. When the timing is excruciatingly longer than what our hearts would prefer. It’s a process that The Lord continually challenges us to trust Him through, and wait on His timing and His power for things to be made new.
It’s like the story of the silversmith who spoke about his craft. Who shared about the process of molding his silver by placing it in fire. He explained that by placing his silver in the center-most part of the fire, he was allowing the hottest flames to burn away any impurities in the metal. He carefully emphasized that his role as the silversmith was the see that particular piece of silver through the entire process- to not only sit and hold it the entire time, but to never take his eyes off of it. And when he was asked when he knew the piece was fully refined, he responded peacefully:
“That’s easy. I know it’s complete when I can see my reflection in it.”
“He will sit as a refiner and purifier of silver; he will purify the Levites and refine them like gold and silver.” Malachi 3:3
This process is where faith in the unseen is tested. And we as humans, doubtful in nature, will fight God and beg Him to take us from the flame that is perfecting us. But we are called to remember that He is with us and He will never take His eyes off His children during the painful season of waiting. That with the fire we are able to become more like Jesus- who endured pain that far exceeded anything our earthly minds can fathom. That through it all, we become reflections of our Savior.
The wilderness season quite generously opens its space up to the refinement process. As Utah begins to feel more and more like home, and the chaotic waters of transition calm, so my heart begins to surface its depths. I am learning with each day, that healing comes from allowing The Lord to take the hurt that has buried itself so far down into your soul, and having Him breathe over it. Giving Him the permission to walk my wounds into the cold air and bring restoration. There is purpose in placement, and when The Father draws our hearts into the wilderness, where all of our kingdoms are bowed down, and our hearts are stripped of idols- it is there where we see Him have the room to begin His soul surgery.
To lay us out in the open fields and open our deepest wounds as we have been given this time, and given this space. He makes us lay down in green pastures, and the promises to restore our souls. But He asks us to wait. And to trust. And to rest in His arms that are holding us.
SLF Class of 17-18
Salt Lake Fellows Collaborative